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Row as Defra targets Cumbria's buzzards

Plans to destroy buzzards nests and capture and cage the bird of prey have been called “scientifically illiterate” and “morally indefensible”.

Dr Roy Armstrong, senior lecturer in the University of Cumbria’s Centre for Wildlife Conservation, reacted angrily to the announcement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), that it will spend up to £375,000 researching ways of preventing buzzards from killing captive-reared pheasants.

The proposals include destroying nests to prevent them breeding, catching and relocating buzzards to places such as falconry centres, or providing alternative food sources.

The move followed lobbying by the pheasant shooting industry.

The 2011 National Gamekeepers Organisation survey found 76 per cent of respondents believe buzzards have a harmful effect on pheasant shoots.

Dr Armstrong said: “Defra’s policy is scientifically illiterate and morally indefensible.

“Buzzards are a native species, pheasants are not.

“This is a clear signal that Defra is acting solely in the interests of private landowners and not in the interests of conservation, an area that most of the people of the UK support.

“It is clearly a politically-motivated policy,” added Dr Armstrong.

And the RSPB in northern England agreed, claiming such a move would set “a terrifying precedent”.

However, it admits buzzards do take young pheasants from rearing pens if given the opportunity, but believes this can be managed without such drastic measures.

Amanda Miller, the RSPB’s conservation manager for northern England, said: “There are options for addressing the relatively small number of pheasant poults lost to buzzards.

“I think most people will agree with us that resorting to primitive measures, such as imprisoning buzzards or destroying their nests, when wildlife and economic interests collide is totally unacceptable.”

She added that funding for conservation work is currently very tight, and suggested the proposed funds for this project are put towards protecting wildlife.

Mick Carroll, from the Northern England Raptor Forum, added: “Given that buzzards are still recovering from past persecution and there is no evidence they are a significant cause of loss, this is a scandalous waste of public money.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “The buzzard population in this country has been protected for over 30 years, and has resulted in a fantastic conservation story.

“At the same time we have cases of buzzards preying on young pheasants.

“We are looking at funding research to find ways of protecting these young birds while making sure the buzzard population continues to thrive.

“This research is about maintaining the balance between captive and wild birds.”

Have your say

How long must the majority who love birds and other wildlife put up with the few gamekeepers and landowners who are bent on destroying for the sake of their own greed. Landowners get the ear of the government. Not a vote winner Tories. I will never vote for you again because you considered destroying our wildlife and listened to the rich.

Posted by Paul Ridgewell on 31 May 2012 at 16:37

VICTORY!
Richard Benyon has been outed as the partisan friend of the bloodthirsty shooting classes that he is!

Once people get together to let these people know that they're not getting away with it, they soon back off. Excellent internet campaign - let's have more of them!

Posted by Evil McBad on 31 May 2012 at 11:47

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